How is digital shaping oncology care?

In this article, Kevin Bambury discusses some of the main digital trends that are shaping the future of oncology.

Medicine is becoming increasingly complex. New treatment paradigms are being introduced and regulations are ever changing. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of oncology. With the subdivision of individual cancers into small subgroups based on mutation profiling and the associated advent of genetics based personalized medicine oncology is becoming ever more difficult to navigate. Thankfully, digital solutions are keeping pace with this complexity and offering new tools to aid oncology care and patient centered decision-making.

Below are some of the main digital trends that are shaping the future of oncology.

“Big data”

From derivatives trading to predicting likelihood of plane crashes, the large amounts of data we have stored in servers around the world is beginning to be removed from its silos, analyzed and leveraged to help with decision making.

This embrace of “big data” is also beginning to take shape in oncology. For years tools like adjuvantonline.com have helped oncologists decide whether or not to prescribe adjuvant chemotherapy. However, this is soon to be taken to a whole new level.

The IBM Watson supercomputer with its 2,880 processor cores, 15 terabytes of RAM, 500 gigabytes of pre-processed information has been put to work in the field of oncology. It is currently being piloted in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer in New York City and has spent the last few months analyzing oncology clinical papers and data sets. It is using this vast store of information to help clinicians decide how patients should be treated.

See the demo below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZsPc0h_mtM

“Just as clinicians have used stethoscopes for decades, oncologists will now carry tablets with apps to aid in the decision-making.”

 

Another company in this space is Flatiron Health. They recently raised $8million from Google ventures. Flatiron helps hospitals and clinicians aggregate and analyze the vast amounts of oncology data they generate on a daily basis. Just like Amazon analyzes data to improve customer experience, Flatiron will offer care providers data gathering and analysis tools to aid them with decision-making and improving patient care.

Mobile

As former Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously said back in 2011: “If you don’t have a mobile strategy then you don’t have a strategy“. Mobile is the future of the Internet and although mobile apps for clinical decision support have been around for a while, only in the last year or so have they begun to be taken seriously.

New legislation introduced by the FDA and EU now classifies some medical apps as medical devices. In the coming years, with the proliferation of tablet devices in hospitals around the world, apps will be used at point-of-care to aid clinical decision-making. Just as clinicians have used stethoscopes for decades, oncologists will now carry tablets with apps to aid in the decision-making.

The opportunities in mobile are endless. In the USA, Obamacare means there is a new importance placed on shared decision making. Mobile apps will play a key role in explaining complex oncology specific issues to patients.

Mobile is set to take up a whole new dimension with the release of Google Glass. Imagine a future where patients’ data is brought up in front of the clinician through their glasses. This is, perhaps, the next phase in the development of digital health.

Patient social networks

New online communities are emerging where patients discuss their illnesses. This is spreading to oncology care as in other areas of medicine. This has huge potential to disrupt the traditional notion of the clinical trial. Patients are signing up for clinical trials and monitoring their own progress online and sharing it with peers who are on similar trials.

“The days of the patient who is happy to sit back and be dictated to about their health and their future is about to end.”

 

PatientsLikeMe is one of a number of social networks taking this approach; they recently launched an app that automatically matches patients with available trials from clinicaltrials.gov. Similarly, a former Google executive has founded a similar website specifically for cancer patients. His creation, SmartPatients.com, allows patients to engage with clinicians and each other online.

The days of the patient who is happy to sit back and be dictated to about their health and their future is about to end. A new empowered and educated patient is already emerging. This means treatment paradigms will shift and patients will become an active partner in the decision making process.

Oncology is changing quickly; thankfully digital solutions are facilitating these changes. We are at the dawn of a convergence of life sciences and digital. There is nowhere this will be more appreciated than in the field of oncology. We are at the beginning of an exciting future in digital oncology that promises to support the delivery of personalized care and to provide improved decision making and outcomes for patients and healthcare providers.

 

About the author:

Kevin Bambury – Co-founder/Director at ONCOassist.

Kevin is a graduate of the Masters of Electronic Business program from University Cork. He is co-founder of ONCOassist, a mobile clinical decision support application developed specifically for oncology professionals. This is only the 3rd smartphone app worldwide to get CE approval. Prior to this he co-founded Dingadeal.com, and worked with AIB bank in brand management and sponsorships.

Email: kevin@oncoassist.com

Twitter: @ONCOassist

How is digital shaping oncology care?